When Illinois couples go through a divorce and one spouse has earned less than the other or has not worked at al, that person may be able to claim Social Security benefits on the higher-earning spouse’s work record. However, this does not reduce the benefits available to the higher-earning spouse.
In order to claim these benefits, the marriage must have lasted at least 10 years, and the benefits available from the higher-earning spouse, which amount to 50 percent of the total that person will receive, must be more than what the other party would get using their own work record. The person must not remarry. If they do remarry, they can only claim benefits if that marriage has also ended. To begin claiming benefits, the person must be older than 62. They can start claiming benefits even if the other spouse has not as long as the divorce was two or more years ago.
The disadvantage of claiming benefits at 62 is that they are permanently reduced. By waiting until they reach full retirement age, an individual can begin receiving full benefits.
Divorce may bring many financial changes to a person’s life, and knowing that these types of benefits are available can be important to a person’s financial security. People who are considering divorce and who are concerned about their financial situation might want to discuss this with an attorney. Those who do not handle the family finances may not know what kinds of assets exist, and they may want to gather records such as tax forms and bank statements to try to get a handle on income and debts. An attorney could attempt to negotiate a settlement agreement that provides spousal support until such time as the client’s finances become more stable.